A transcript of the sermon preached on Mothering Sunday at St James (Slaithwaite), St Bartholomew’s (Marsden) and Home Church (online) on Sunday 14th March 2021. Bible readings here.
It is Mothering Sunday, the day when we traditionally return to our mother church, the church in which our faith was born. The place where our faith was enlightened by teaching. Where we began to learn about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit because other people took the time to help us learn. Once we were in darkness: the darkness of ignorance, and then someone brought us into the light.
Do you remember your mother church? Where did you come to faith? Was it here? Do you remember who first taught you about God, about Jesus, and about the Holy Spirit? Now would be a great moment to picture them in your mind and to give thanks to God, for their witness to you… because as we read in Ephesians: “you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once lived. However, God by the free gift of grace has saved you.”
I wonder who else God would like to ‘save’. Can you think of anyone? Can you picture them in your mind?
In the future, I wonder if the people you picture now will look back and picture St James, Shred, St Bartholomew’s and our online ‘Home Church’ and remember us, and give thanks to God for our witness to them. I wonder who will say, “I was dead in the trespasses and sins in which I once lived. However, God by the free gift of grace has saved me.”
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, in the calling you have laid upon your church, we picture before you the people of Marsden, Slaithwaite and the surrounding community, our friends, families and colleagues, and we ask, in the name of Jesus, that not one of them shall perish.
Is that a bold prayer? Is it foolish or ambitious? If we are ambitious, it is ambitious for those who we’re praying for and this ambition is based on the reading we have had from Saint John, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”’
Jesus words cut like a knife edge. It is true that God loves the world… so much… So much that he sent his only Son that the world might believe and not perish. The path the world is on is a path towards ‘perish’. The path that God offers through Jesus is the path towards ‘saved’. Is it harsh to say perish? Is it harsh to tell the truth about life and death? The life of our species, humanity, is driven by a fear of death:
- Protecting what we have from those who have not.
- From comfortable homes to comfortable pension funds.
- Reluctantly going to war over oil in the past, and going to war over water in the future.
- Even sex is our species way of trying to avoid death… reproduction so that our DNA is passed from one human shaped biodegradable carrier bag to another.
- The Human Rights Act of 1998 says: “ Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law”… humanity has made death illegal.
When Jesus says you’re going to perish, humanity says, “No, we’ve made that illegal”. Like an Emu, the world sticks its head in the ground.
Once again, everything seems to come down to perspective… Jesus said, “I come to save” and the world hears “you’re going to perish”. Instead of rejoicing in the good news of life and love, the world that God loves buries its head in the sand, like an Emu, head down and arse in the air, covered in feathers… and they say Christians look foolish.
That is the world that God loves… but God doesn’t laugh at us. God weeps for us. Yearns for us. Reaches out to us in every moment of every day. Reaches out to us in the play of sunlight on the water… the whisper of wind in the trees, the rocks on which we stand… the rivers and trees clap their hands, the trees bow down before God. But mostly God reaches out to us in Jesus. Arms outstretched.
Me. You. Us. Them. Everyone. The people we love and the people we love not so much. God loves the world and doesn’t want the world to perish… hence the free-gift of God’s grace. “I was dead in the trespasses and sins in which I once lived. However, God by the free gift of grace has saved me.”
In your mind, now, picture someone you know who doesn’t share this faith we have. Picture their face. God loves them. Know this in your heart and mind and pray for them.